Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has withheld assent to four bills passed by the National Assembly last year. The four proposed laws are National Lottery Amendment Bill; Dangerous Drug Amendment Bill; Agriculture Credit Guarantee Scheme Fund; and Currency Conversion Bill.
And to quell the growing agitations by senators who expressed readiness to override the president’s veto on the bills, the Senate President Bukola Saraki quickly declared that the upper chamber would seek legal advice before taking further step on the matter.
While the action of the acting president signals a rising assertion of his authority, it is also an early indication of potential frosty relations between him and the National Assembly. Thus, unless the two arms of government can mutually resolve the matter, it will adversely affect governance.
The nation’s constitution has sufficient provisions to take care of what should happen when the president withholds his assent to any bill. Section 58 of the constitution reads: “Where a bill is presented to the president for assent, he shall within thirty days thereof signify that he assents or that he withholds assent. Where the president withholds his assent and the bill is again passed by each House by two-thirds majority, the bill shall become law and the assent of the president shall not be required.”
Osinbajo explained that “The rationale for withholding assent to the Lottery Amendment Bill is the existence of pending legal challenge to the competence of the National Assembly to legislate on the subject matter.”
The National Assembly had, in amending the Lottery Act, transferred the power to grant licences to lottery operators from states to the Federal Government for the purpose of boosting federal revenue.
On the Currency Conversion Bill, Osinbajo said: “The rationale for withholding assent to the bill is the concern regarding the modalities for the communication of asset forfeiture orders.”
The National Assembly’s motive for amending the Currency Conversion Act (Freezing Orders) was to transfer the power of the President and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor on asset forfeiture to the law courts. The amendment sought to whittle down the powers of the president to order the forfeiture of assets and transfer such powers to the court.
On the Dangerous Drug Amendment Bill, the acting president said he withheld his assent as a result of certain words and phrases that might be inconsistent with the spirit behind the amendment.
Osinbajo also said he rejected the bill on Agriculture Credit Guarantee Scheme Fund because of funding concerns and composition of the board. “The reason for withholding assent to the bill are the concerns surrounding board composition, funding arrangements, limitation of liability of funds and proposal to increase levels of uncollateralised loans from N5,000 to N250,000.”